Player: Michael Pastujov
Position: Left Wing
Height; 6’0” Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: USA NTDP U18
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 80th among North American skaters
What I Like
Pastujov has really rare finishing ability. He has the ability to handle tough passes and get shots off from anywhere with a smooth, clean release.
Gets into scoring positions
Pastujov complements his shooting ability with a knack for getting himself into the right areas in front of the net at the right time to score goals.
This goal is a great example. Pastujov comes from behind the net and times the play perfectly to get position on the defender and tap in the rebound.
That’s fairly representative of his World U18s performance where Pastujov picked up a lot of points by hanging around the side of the crease like that and picking up loose pucks.
What I Don’t Like
Slow first step
Pastjuov’s biggest issue this past season was his skating. His first step was really slow, which meant he lost a lot of races to loose pucks, and had trouble creating much when he did have the puck.
After being considered one of the top prospects in his age group, Pastujov missed all but 5 games of his U16 season, and all but 14 games of his U17 seasons with the NTDP due to injury. He also missed a handful of games this season due to injury. I have no idea on the likelihood of re-occurrence. But even if he remains healthy, he has missed a lot of key development time in the past few years.
Maybe it’s a case where he’s a bit under-rated right now because he hasn’t had the same training time as the rest of his peers, and he’ll eventually catch up in a few years. I thought he was clearly the most talented forward on the NTDP U17s before his injury. But there’s also the possibility that missing that key window leaves him permanently a step behind.
NHL Central Scouting omitted him completely from their mid-term rankings before placing him 80th on their final list, and he followed that up with a point-per-game performance at the World U18s, which probably helps. There’s likely to be an extremely wide range of opinions on Pastujov though, just because there’s a tantalizing ceiling, but so little in terms of track record to go on.
If I were picking, I’d probably start looking at Pastujov as early as the late-second round. I have serious concerns given his injury history, but high-end scoring ability like he potentially has is going to be very hard to come by in this Draft. I could see an NHL team thinking similarly and taking him as early as the second round, or I could see him slipping into the later rounds of the Draft.
Pastujov is headed to the University of Michigan next season, where he’ll be re-united with his older brother Nick, a New York Islanders draft choice. Pastujov has missed so much time in recent years that there is sure to be a learning curve, and he’ll likely need a few years to catch up. But he has potential to be a true sniper. He legitimately has NHL scoring line upside if he can stay healthy and regain the form he showed when he was younger.